Published On: Thu, Sep 14th, 2017

Predictions for the 2017-18 Europa League

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A tantalising blend of upstarts and giants will be opening a fresh chapter of Europa League football on Thursday. Here, theScore predicts the teams that will make an impression for the right and wrong reasons. Do you agree with the selections?

Serious contender

Only three of the past eight Europa League winners have come from the Champions League group stage as third-placed finishers. But there are still a few favourites to consider from the initial pool this September:

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Carlo Campo: Villarreal. Roberto Soldado is out. Carlos Bacca is in on loan. It can be easy to forget that the Colombian striker was a protagonist in Sevilla‘s Europa League conquests of 2013-14 and 2014-15. The product of Club Junior knows the tournament well, and, if he can replicate his form, the Yellow Submarine will be capable of torpedoing whatever club stands in its way.

Anthony Lopopolo: AC Milan. The Rossoneri spent heavily in the summer after years of cost-cutting, building a brand new squad from head to toe. With a mix of youth and leadership in the form of Lucas Biglia and Leonardo Bonucci, Milan has a balanced enough squad to do damage in the only major European competition it’s yet to win. Look out for Andre Silva, the €38-million summer signing from Porto, as a breakout performer.

Daniel Rouse: Lazio. Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto are among a host of players who have shone so far in the capital club’s domestic season, and the underrated Felipe Anderson is currently on course to return from injury for the Group K showdown with Nice. Recent wins over Juventus in the Supercoppa and Milan in Serie A showed Lazio can’t be underestimated.

Biggest disappointment

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Campo: Atalanta BC. La Dea will struggle to replicate the form that resulted in a fourth-place finish in Serie A, particularly after Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti joined Milan, a direct rival in the Europa League. Complicating matters is a brutal draw, which pitted the club next to two opponents that could arguably be competing in the Champions League.

Lopopolo: Everton. Much like Milan, Everton invested large sums into the player department. But this team still has some holes. Despite all the spending, the striker position remains a huge question mark. There is also noticeable lack of width in this team, especially with Yannick Bolasie out until the end of the year. If Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson can’t summon any European magic, the journey will end prematurely.

Rouse: Lyon. Alexandre Lacazette scored six during Lyon’s run into last season’s semi-finals and, despite the recent free-scoring antics of Nabil Fekir and Mariano, his loss could be felt when Bruno Genesio stretches his resources into continental play. There are big hurdles in Group E, with Everton, Atalanta, and Apollon Limassol – which booted Lyon from the Champions League in 2012 – all squabbling for a knockout berth.

Surprise package

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Campo: FK Partizan. The Serbian club tends to make headlines for the wrong reasons, such as a stadium closure for an antisemitic banner. But Partizan will draw attention for its performances on the pitch in the Europa League and go on an adventure reminiscent of its journey to the final of the 1965-66 European Cup.

Lopopolo: FC Koln. The Billy Goats have returned to European competition after 20 years, a well-earned achievement by a well-drilled side. Manager Peter Stoger has slowly built Koln up from the ground after securing promotion to the Bundesliga in 2014. Although last season’s star, Anthony Modeste, is no longer with the team, this side is more about the sum of its parts.

Rouse: Istanbul Basaksehir. The elder statesmen of Abdullah Avci's side – Emmanuel Adebayor, Emre Belozoglu, Gokhan Inler, and Gael Clichy – aren't exactly stirring, but it's the under-the-radar talents that thrive. Troubled winger Eljero Elia is rebuilding his career with Basaksehir, and the now-departed Cengiz Under should be the first of many exciting youngsters to emerge at the club after huge investment in the youth setup.

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